Christian Leaders Urge Believers to Base Their Faith on Evidence Rather Than Human Leaders After Joshua Harris’ Falling Away

Former megachurch pastor Joshua Harris’ departure from Christianity has spurred dialogue about apologetics, legalism and the doctrine of salvation.

Harris, former pastor of the mega Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., announced in July he and his wife Shannon are divorcing, that he no longer considers himself a Christian, and that he regrets having taught that marriage is a union only between a man and a woman.

Harris’ defection from Christianity could stem from a reaction to a certain type of legalism the author previously promoted, Robert Stewart, director of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Institute of Christian Apologetics, told BP Aug. 1.

“It seems that he critiqued the legalistic lifestyle that he was brought up in and that he taught to others, and decided that if the lifestyle was wrong, then the Gospel was wrong as well,” Stewart told BP. “It would make more sense to say, ‘I have misunderstood how I should live as a Christian’ than to say, ‘If my way of life is wrong, then Christianity is too.’ People frequently confuse their interpretation of Scripture with Scripture itself.”

Stewart said Harris’ decision is an alert that Christians might not be doing enough to disciple believers in the faith, particularly teaching them apologetics and how reason and evidence support Christian belief.

“We need to train people to understand their faith and the reasons for believing that Christianity is true. We need to disciple them in ways that ground their faith in facts rather than feelings,” he said. “We need to base our faith in evidence rather than any human leader.”

Stewart urged prayer “for other believers that are going through crises of faith. People fall away for various reasons. A great deal of the time the reasons people fall away are more emotional than they are intellectual…. Simply put, if you come to Christ for purely emotional reasons, then when your emotions change, you’ll run somewhere else.”

Heath Lambert, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., announced that Harris’ foreword to Lambert’s book, “Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace,” will not be included in future printings.

“I knew there was no way for me to continue to have [Harris’ foreword] be associated with my book,” Lambert blogged July 29. “In ‘Finally Free,’ I am trying to be clear about a Christian approach to sexuality. Joshua’s recent actions and statements only confuse that attempt at clarity and will lead others astray.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, addressed Harris’ decision on the Aug. 1 Briefing podcast, saying that theological depth is a Christian necessity.

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Source: Baptist Press